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Mbarara: City leaders and vendors harmonize on line of work in the central market.

Joshua Nahamya

03 July 2024

Mbarara City – In a meeting at Mbarara city council grounds chaired by the Town clerk Assy Abirebe Tumwesigire, attended by the senior city commercial officer (SCCO) Allan Buhanda, Mayor Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi, Deputy Mayor Priscah Murongo, market master and town agents left vendors perplexed on who is authorized to occupy and operate from the newly constructed central market under the Markets and Agriculture Trade Improvement Project [MATIP] to alleviate poverty and improve agricultural trade.

Mbarara Central Market was completed and handed over by ROKO Construction Company in March 2022. However, two years later, complaints are still onboard claiming that the market is occupied by tycoons not the hustlers in Mbarara.

According to the new Act, the administrative authority for the markets in a municipality, town or city shall be the tow clerk.

The local authority shall collect market fees due to the local authority from all markets within its jurisdiction by the Local Governments Act, Kampala Capital City Act, 2011, or any other written law.

During the market inspection headed by the team from the President’s office together with the ministry of local government in May 2024, a total of 57 lockups out of 485 lockups were owned by landlords who sublet to other vendors and charged them exorbitant rent fees which is illegal according to the Markets Act, 2023.

It is from this background that the vendors met with the city council leadership to harmonize on who should be occupying the market premises.

Kibanda Donozio-Vendor asking the city leadership about the tenants’ agreement. Joshua Nahamya

According to the Market Act, of 2023, a person shall not sublet the allocated workspace, shop, pitch, or stall without authorization from the allocation committee meaning that what vendors are doing in the Mbarara market is illegal.

The city town clerk asked vendors to patiently wait for the inspection report which the council will base on to make a decision.

“some tenants are paying rent fees  at a high cost which means that some people are gaining from the government property yet we gave them lockups to go and work from there by themselves,” Abirebe said

He insisted that “Nobody should be collecting rent from the market if it is not council”.

Abireebe said that after the ministry and office of the president intervened, the matter escalated into some fights between tenants and landlords resulting from who owns what in the market.

“There are some fights between tenants and landlords that have broken up. I want to tell you that the team from the president’s office has already captured that information. I talked to them and they have promised me that before July they will avail us of that report which we shall base on to make a decision. Once the government gives you a lockup, you are supposed to work from there by yourself.” He explained

“In principle, the government does not allow a person to collect money from the market. The only institution allowed to collect money from the market is a city council and the money we collect we again spend it on you to pay the electricity and water bills, collect garbage, security, and cleaners among others,” Abirebe added

He warned landlords to stop evicting the tenants from the market because of the matter at hand until a report is released. “But from today remain calm when that report comes that matter will be solved once and for all”

The town clerk challenged vendors to avoid borrowing from money lenders citing that some have started mortgaging government property while looking for soft loans.

“That market is for the government, it is not for the town clerk, mayor or the council per say. We don’t want to hear that so and so mortgaged the lockup money lenders and court bailiffs are coming to take it. For us if they come we shall tell them to arrest and deal with you individually,” Abirebe said

He also warned fresh fish mongers who have defaulted fees for almost two years to start paying their arrears or else quit the market facility.

“Fishmongers and other vendors who are not paying well rent should pay. If I may ask in this town where can one get space to carry out business at a subsidy fee of Shs 100,000?” Abirebe asked the vendors

The Market Act, 2023 law says that where the vendor fails to pay the market fees, an administrative authority may seize any goods held by the vendor within the market and the goods shall, unless the sum due is paid within fourteen days from the date of seizure, be sold by the administrative authority.

“Vendors you have to pay so that we get money to maintain your market. For instance every security guard at night we pay him Shs. 600,000 per month now where do you think we get that money if some of you are not paying?” Abirebe asked

“Stop disturbing. Always go to the office of the market master, generate a PRN and pay rent through the Integrated Revenue Administration System (IRAS) every month to demand from us electricity, water, security among others.” He added

Mayor Robert Kakyebezi appreciated vendors in Mbarara central market for being an example to all the markets in Uganda thus encouraging vendors to maintain hygiene and sanitation.

“You have become a good example for us all and you have marketed yourselves, every time the ministry of local government sends people from all spheres of Uganda to come and benchmark from here mention Kampala metropolitan, Gulu, Mbale, Fort Portal everywhere. What I want from you is to keep the market clean so that we maintain our position,” Kakyebezi said

He however asked the ministry of local government to amend the markets’ Act calling for the reinstatement of the market association leadership if the government is to keep law and order in markets.

“There is no way you can organise markets when vendors don’t have their own leadership in existence. What does the town clerk or city commercial officer know about you? It’s you who know yourselves.  If a burial group can have its leadership then what about a market? It was just an oversight but it must be there” Kakyebezi explained

Zelda Nkwikiriza asked the council to issue the vendors a tenant’s agreement to prove ownership of their kiosks in the market.

“You are telling us to pay to zero balance but the only instrument a vendor  can have confirming that he has a lockup in the market is an allocation letter and a tenant’s agreement which we don’t have so how can we pay when we have not ascertained ownership of the lockups in the market,” Nkwikiriza said

Allan Buchanan, Senior City Commercial officer (SCCO) said “As technocrats, we talk about what other people don’t want to hear but which are correct. So if you know that you bought or sold any lock up in the market go and sort yourself”.

He added that “Whoever will be proved that he is renting the lockups will be deregistered and the facility will be given to fresh incubators”.

Emmanuel Muhumuza- Chairperson of the Mbarara Central Market Association challenged the Ministry of Local Government officials and representatives from the office of the president for not consulting the leadership of the market during investigations.

“Though it was a directive from the president, they did their findings but they never met us as leaders of vendors and surprisingly we heard that some lockups were allocated to other vendors which has sparked conflicts and confusion in the market,” Muhumuza said

Further special investigations were carried out in the Kabale central market to enable the newly constructed market to be occupied by incubators, not tycoons and local leaders as it was alleged.

The Ministry of Local Government has also reduced the tenancy period from five years to two years to allow fresh incubators to join the money economy.

“The market is a government property that cannot be inherited. So when your time comes, get out and pave way for others to incubate” Abireebe said

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